The Hartford Police Chief is being ordered to pay thousands of dollars to repair damage to his city-issued vehicle following a May traffic accident that is still under investigation.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said Monday, July 13, that Police Chief Jason Thody will pay about $3,300 to cover damages resulting from when Thody struck a guardrail in his Chevrolet Tahoe on Route 154 near the Chester-Haddam line.
Bronin released a letter July 13 recounting the events of the incident and outlining discipline - restitution and the filing of the mayor’s letter in Thody’s personnel file. Although Thody did not immediately report the scrape to local police, the mayor said, the chief did inform city officials of the incident on the same day it happened, May 31.
Thody said he struck the guardrail because he was distracted by his phone. A 911 caller who reported the incident said Thody was driving “like a bat out of hell.”
The mayor said despite the incident, Thody has his full support.
“Because you promptly notified your direct supervisor and because I have no reason to believe that the incident was the result of anything other than distracted driving at a time when you were actively responding to city responsibility,” the mayor wrote in a letter to Thody, “this incident does not cause me to lose confidence in you and in your leadership of the Hartford Police Department.”
Thody was selected as Hartford’s police chief in February.
Bronin said, however, that in this incident Thody did not “meet the standards the City of Hartford expects from its employees and its Department heads in particular.”
In his letter, the mayor said he was particularly concerned that:
Thody didn’t immediately contact local police following the accident;
Thody admitted driving while distracted;
While Thody reported the incident to the city’s Chief Operating Officer and to the Hartford Police Department for investigation “promptly,” the mayor said, “neither you nor your staff placed a sufficiently high priority on ensuring that the subsequent reporting was as detailed or clear as it should have been.”
An independent investigation into the incident is ongoing - and could be released as soon as July 14- and an investigation by the Internal Audit Commission could still happen, according to the Hartford Courant.
On Monday, July 13, the Hartford City Council voted to postpone any decision on whether to suspend Thody until they get results from the independent investigation, according to NBC Connecticut.
City Councilman Josh Michtom said he was disappointed that the resolution to suspend Thody from his duties while the incident is being investigated was referred to the committee. Michtom wrote the resolution with Councilwoman Wildaliz Bermudez.
“The whole point is that he drove recklessly and should be relieved of his city car while an investigation is ongoing,” Michtom said in a Facebook post. “It doesn’t work if you refer it to a committee and our next Council meeting is in a month.”
Thody said he takes responsibility for his actions and that, at the time of the incident, he was rushing back to Hartford to address police response to an influx of civil rights protests.
“I want our community and city leaders to be assured that these mistakes would not have happened under normal circumstances,” Thody said in a statement to NBC Connecticut. “I am committed to focusing on moving forward and serving our community to the best of my ability.”
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